Eyes Like the Sea / translated by R. Nisbet Bain, by Mór Jókai

Chapter xxi

Maria Nostra.

Ah! what an ocean of time has passed since this happened. It must be twenty years, at least. It makes me giddy when I look back upon it. But how many evil years there were, how many days that I do not love to think about! How many have been torn from my side to whom life was a joy and on whom the future smiled! And I still remain! Only here and there, now and again, perhaps, do I encounter a grey-headed shape like myself, a relic from that brilliant time, and what a joy it then is to look back upon those old days and say: “It is not so good now as it was then!”

Some years ago I was on a visit of inspection among our large national State prisons. I happened to be at Szamosujvár and Illava, where the aristocracy of crime is collected together, persons condemned to a term of imprisonment exceeding ten years, all of them criminals once under sentence of death, but reprieved by an act of grace. Here were interesting studies of the night side of human nature.

I also visited the Maria Nostra. Here the female criminals resided, and nuns were the warders.

This house of correction can only be visited by special permission of the Ministry.

There the discipline is strict, but the prisoners are very well treated.

Last of all we visited the day-room, where the prisoners were at work.

They all sat in a long room, and were sewing. Those who could do the finer sort of work were at little tables of their own. I stopped before one of such tables; a woman was sewing some sort of child’s garment. It is the rule that when a visitor stops before the table of one of the felons, she shall immediately rise from her seat and, whether asked or unasked, say what her crime is and how long her term of imprisonment.

She arose when I stood before her table.

Her hair was as white as autumn gossamers, but her eyes still flashed with their old varying fires — they were still, as of old, the flaming eyes like the sea! In a dull monotone she told me her crime and her sentence: “I killed my husband. I am condemned to imprisonment for life.”

For life! — and life so long!

“Can I not use my interest in your favour?”

“I thank you, but it is well with me here. I wish for nothing more in this world.”

And with that she returned to her place and went on with her work.

Poor little Bessy!

Last year I received a letter announcing her death. It was her last wish that I, but nobody else, should be informed of it.






Half autobiographical, dramatic, and at the same time humorous, Jókai’s novel, crowned by the Hungarian Academy in 1860, is a delightful exception to the tendency which is fast making fiction a branch of science instead of art. —Morning Post.

It is a strikingly original and powerful story . . . The great charm of the book is the manner in which Jókai analyses Bessie’s character. All through the story indeed we feel ourselves in the presence of a master of the human heart, and again and again we come upon sentences pregnant with that wisdom which it is the lot of but few to acquire. —Speaker.

From beginning to end “Eyes like the Sea” teems with entertaining matter and the English version is highly creditable to Mr. Nisbet Bain the translator of this sprightly autobiographical novel. —Daily Telegraph.

“Eyes Like the Sea” is an alluring book into which to dip at random . . . —Academy.

“Eyes like the Sea” is one of those rare books that break all rules and defy criticism by justifying their irregularities. —Guardian.

It is good to know too that fiction in Hungary has a master so hearty, so human, and so free at once from priggishness and naturalism. —Saturday Review.

In some respects the heroine reminds us of Becky Sharp and in others of Manon Lescaut, and in feminine dexterity and sexual eccentricities is no unworthy mate for either. —Athenæum.

It is truly, as Mr. Bain remarks in his preface, a brilliant example of the now rare novel of incident and adventure . . . The vigor of the book is astonishing. —World.

The charm of the original as a work of art loses a good deal in the translation . . . none the less the book is extremely interesting. It is a sketchy and vivacious summary of the more salient incidents in the political and literary career of the eminent Hungarian poet and romancist, its author. —Literary World.


Transcriber’s Note: The following typographical errors present in the original edition have been corrected.

In the Preface, “pronouned preference” was changed to “pronounced preference”.

In Chapter I, a missing period was added after “Valsez là”.

In Chapter II, “would have withrawn” was changed to “would have withdrawn”, and a missing quotation mark was added before “you ought really to be a tamer of animals!”.

In Chapter III, a missing period was added after “after her wedding”.

In Chapter IV, a quotation mark was added before “They are all in a very good humour today”.

In Chapter VI, “amongst us at the, Table of Public Opinion” was changed to “amongst us at the Table of Public Opinion”.

In Chapter VIII a missing quotation mark was added after “skiz and pagát. . . . ”

In Chapter X a missing period was added after “Newspapers he never reads”.

In Chapter XIII, “beleagured fortress” was changed to “beleaguered fortress”, “hide yourself in the village of Isza” was changed to “hide yourself in the village of Izsa”, a missing period was added after “glass full of szilvorium”, and an extraneous quotation mark was deleted after “the hovel at Hetény”.

In Chapter XIV, a quotation mark was added before “Forget what we have been speaking about!”

In Chapter XV, “Wencesclaus Kvatopil was decidedly an improvement” was changed to “Wenceslaus Kvatopil was decidedly an improvement”.

In Chapter XVI, “Kakas Mártin,” was changed to “Kakas Mártin.”

The ellipses in Chapter XVII both contained an extra dot (a period plus four dots at the end of a sentence, and four dots following an incomplete sentence). The extra dots have been removed. Also, a missing period has been added after “her various temperaments”.

In Chapter XVIII, a missing quotation mark was added after “mutually discovered in Kvatopil’s character. . . . ”. In Chapter XIX, “Özvegy Kapitáuyné” was changed to “Özvegy Kapitányné”, a period was changed to a colon after “said to the President”, a missing quotation mark was added after “left to practise alone”, and “piroutted off” was changed to “pirouetted off”.

In Chapter XX, “turn the jok against you” was changed to “turn the joke against you”, “the Józsefvarose dispensary” was changed to “the Józsefváros dispensary”, “the real Ca holic faith” was changed to “the real Catholic faith”, and a misplaced quotation mark was move from after “taken in hand to get on very well” to after “sit in judgment on his faults”.

Numerous Hungarian words have been spelled inconsistently, sometimes with an accent and sometimes without, and some words have been inconsistently hyphenated. Each occurrence has been left as it appeared in the original text, except as follows: “Fövarosi” has been changed to “Fövárosi”, “Heteny” to “Hetény”, “Honvéd” to “Honved”, “Jokai” to “Jókai”, “Rakóczy” to “Rákóczy”, “Sagi” to “Sági”, “Segesvar” to “Segesvár”, “Valy” to “Vály”, “Vasvary” to “Vasváry”, and “Verchovszky” to “Vérchovszky”.

Also, the section titled “A Few Comments of the English Press” has been moved from the front of the book to the back.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Eyes Like the Sea, by Mór Jókai

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56